Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. As Labour's iron man, Ed Balls could do the trick (Guardian)

The tough-as-titanium spending plan Ed Balls laid out could clinch an election, says Polly Toynbee. Can Ed Miliband provide matching vision?

2. George Osborne was the future once - now Michael Gove drives the Tories on (Daily Telegraph)

The Chancellor has been supplanted as the party’s most effective political playmaker, writes Benedict Brogan.

3. Talk of recovery in Greece is premature – and all about justifying austerity (Guardian)

Few think Athens could go a day outside the sovereign version of debtor's jail, writes Aditya Chakrabortty.

4. It’s not a register we need to keep politics honest. It’s a free press (Independent)

Despite what Nick Clegg thinks, a statutory regulator of lobbyists would not have prevented Patrick Mercer's own spectacular folly, writes John Rentoul.

5. Obama and Xi must halt a risky rivalry (Financial Times)

The real difficulty is over the Chinese desire to carve out a ‘sphere of influence’ in east Asia, writes Gideon Rachman.

6. Balls uses the ‘d-word’. But it’s just a first step (Times)

The shadow chancellor has acknowledged the deficit, writes Rachel Sylvester. Even so, economic credibility is still a long way off for Labour.

7. Hubris and nemesis, with a Turkish accent (Daily Telegraph)

Recep Erdogan’s style of politics lies at the heart of his problems at home and abroad, says Shashank Joshi. 

8. Politics catches up with age of austerity (Financial Times)

Britain may finally be able to have a strategic conversation about what government is for, says Janan Ganesh.

9. Case of Bradley Manning is not America's finest hour (Independent)

While Manning behaved recklessly, his treatment has been a disgrace, says an Independent editorial. 

10. Here's how Ukip would clean up Westminster's act on lobbying (Guardian)

The Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour have done little to end sleaze scandals, says Nigel Farage. They're all in hock to lobbyists.

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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.